Like football, like life

football player being tackled and landing on his headI just read about the WBUR Poll: For Head Injuries, Football Fans Support Regulation, But Haven’t Changed Viewing Habits, and it got me thinking. I’m a big football fan. Even though I don’t watch every single game, I still love the sport. I also love to watch boxing and MMA.

Even though I know what it’s doing to the contestants — potentially causing brain injuries that will screw them up, sooner or later — I still love to watch the sports.

There’s something about seeing people wade into a fight and then come out on the other side (victorious or not) that’s very cathartic for me.

I think that’s because it reminds me of my life. I feel, on any given day, like I’m wading into a fracas of some kind. Either it’s work, or it’s just the everyday occurrences, or it’s dealing with the slings and arrows of the world. But whatever the nature of it, I feel like I’m getting beaten up… like another “team” is gunning for me… and like the players and fighters I love to watch, I have to keep my act together and keep going, till the end of “regulation play”.

I think that I’m not alone in this. A lot of people I know feel constantly attacked by life. We know we’re gonna get roughed up. That’s a given. We know it’s gonna hurt. We know we’re going to get pushed and pulled and trampled in the process, but we have to keep going.

Like the players on the field.

And like those players, we take a calculated risk, every time we engage with life. We know the odds may be stacked against us, but we still keep at it. We stay in the game. And like so many of those players and fighters, even when we should probably sit out to let our brains recover, we head right back in there, as soon as we can. Because that’s the only way we know how to be, how to act, how to get along in life.

Personally, I cringe, when I think what’s being done to the “heroes” on the field and in the ring. I know what’s being done to their brains. But life is rough. It’s tough. It beats you down and knocks the stuffing out of you, time and time again. Football players and fighters are like our proxies. We fight to live, they live to fight.

And just about everybody can relate to that.

Got a fill-in-the-blank Hangover?

This is a great little read from The Paris Review.

Toledo Street Scandal, 1895. Twitter feels like this, some days – though it’s not just the women piling on…

A few weeks ago, I woke up one day feeling awful. I inventoried my symptoms. I didn’t seem to be getting sick. I hadn’t had too much to drink. Was it food poisoning? No—the slight ache in my stomach wasn’t, exactly, physical. And then it all came crashing back over me, and I realized the truth: I had a gossip hangover.

Click here to read the rest…

You know, it’s funny, how humans can be. We genuinely want to be happy, and it makes us happy to see others happy. And yet, we go to great lengths to make others miserable. As though hurting someone else is really going to make us feel better.

In a way, I suppose it does. I mean, consider the popularity of combat sports (which, based on the recent head-hunting fouls by some players, may sometimes include football). MMA, classical martial arts, boxing, rugby… and more… Not to mention Twitter. Everywhere you look, you can find evidence that people seek to relieve their own pain by visiting it on others.

I’m also included in the ranks of fans of the combat sports listed above. I’ll happily sit down to watch an MMA bout, a martial arts contest, a whole night’s worth of boxing, or a afternoon and evening full of overly combative football (e.g. Steelers / Bengals). I’m less “into” rugby (which probably sits on the cusp of not being a combat sport, depending how you play), mostly because I don’t know all the rules and I never acquired a taste for it.

And when players get hit hard enough to get knocked out, yes, I cringe. But I also get a secret enjoyment from it.

Because I’m not the only person feeling battered, these days. And when the players get up and get back in the game, it tells me that I can, too.

Now, if we can find a way to provide this same sort of community and commiseration, without causing brain damage to the players we admire and support, and tossing their futures aside for the sake of the immediate moment…

And another loss. Ronda Rousey got her ass handed to her.

rousey-fightingThis is a different kind of loss than the Paris attacks. It’s miniscule, compared to what happened in France — or Lebanon , or Syria, or any of the other places on earth where the enormity of human cruelty and misery staggers the mind.

But it’s still a loss.

Ronda Rousey got her ass kicked last night. And Holly Holm handed it to her on a platter. I watched the fight — even paid the 50 bucks and stayed up till after midnight to watch the whole thing.

It was not at all what I was expecting. I’ve been following Ronda Rousey for a relatively short time — mostly over the past 6 months. A buddy of mine on FB is a martial arts instructor, and they have been posting videos of Ronda Rousey fighting for years. But it wasn’t until her victory over Bethe Correia, that I really took notice.

I have to say, the press and media around Ronda has been phenomenal. She’s the kind of lady who’s “relatable”, who’s an amazing athlete and an “everyperson” kind of hero. Working her way up from tough living circumstances, reaching out to fans, being very real with the press. And being ferocious in the ring. I’ve been impressed — the more I have seen her, the moreso.

I wasn’t expecting things to go the way they did last night, with Ronda going down in a knockout in the 2nd round. I don’t think many of us were. But at the end of the first round, I saw her wobbly on her feet and disoriented, and I suspected she was hurt. In her corner, she seemed dazed, almost mentally stung, as though she believed nothing could touch her… and when it did, she wasn’t mentally prepared for it.

Plus, she was hurt. Her brain was hurt by a couple of hard hits right off the bat. And when your brain is injured, there’s not much you can do to overcome it in that moment. Ronda’s a fighter, and she took it to the only conclusion she could — getting knocked out. Because that’s the only thing that would ever stop her from keeping moving towards her target.

I must admit, it’s a strange juxtaposition for me. I know what repeat head trauma can do to a person, and I hate what it does to the lives of everyone affected. Yet I love MMA and boxing. A good match-up, like the one between the two ladies prior to Rousey and Holm, is pretty fascinating for me — getting hit, keeping your head together, and being able to prevail in the long run, is something that I can relate to. Lots of other people can, too. Good fighters are phenomenal to watch, even with all the blood that sometimes comes with MMA and the knowledge of what getting knocked out does to a person — especially if they keep getting knocked out. (I suspected Silva was not going to last against Hall, because he’s been knocked out three times in recent history, and that sort of injury is cumulative. Sure enough, he got knocked out again. It didn’t seem to take much.)

The other thing is that Rousey had three title fights in the past year (I believe), and even if you do get plenty of rest in between, the effects of getting hit hard, repeatedly, are going to be cumulative, so that’s going to work against you. It’s going to work against your brain — which works against your body — which works against your chances of winning… or getting out of the second round in one piece.

Anyway, it was deeply disappointing to see Rousey go down like that. In the midst of it all, it became clear to me that Holm was the better prepared athlete, the better conditioned one, perhaps even the better of the two, overall. It’s a credit to Rousey that it took someone like Holm to take her down, but I was expecting Rousey to be more aggressive and put up more of a fight. But she got hit a few times early on, and to me, that was the beginning of the end.

In the end, I hope Ronda gets some good rest and takes care of her brain. At the end, when she got hit (and Holly kept pounding her head, even after she was knocked out on the ground), I could have sworn I saw a “fencing response” when Ronda was on her back and Holly was beating at her head.

According the The Concussion Blog

The fencing response is an unnatural position of the arms following a concussion. Immediately after moderate forces have been applied to the brainstem, the forearms are held flexed or extended (typically into the air) for a period lasting up to several seconds after the impact. The Fencing Response is often observed during athletic competition involving contact, such as football, hockey, rugby, boxing and martial arts. It is used as an overt indicator of injury force magnitude and midbrain localization to aid in injury identification and classification for events including, but not limited to, on-field and/or bystander observations of sports-related head injuries.

It looked like Ronda was holding her arms up to defend herself, but I think it was that kick to her neck that caused her arms to raise. Unfortunately, everybody seemed to think it meant the former, so Holly took it as an indication that she needed to finish her opponent — when her opponent was already more than done.

Ideally, it would be great to educate MMA folks about this, so the same thing doesn’t keep happening. Arms raised, while you’re clearly not conscious does not mean you pose a threat. It means your brainstem has been injured, and you’re unable to properly defend yourself.

In a perfect world, the refs would keep an eye out for this and be more aggressive about stopping fighters. When Rousey went down from the kick and her arms went up, that should have settled it for both the fighters.

But when your arms go up, it can signal that you’re still fighting… so your opponent continues to wale on you, long past the point where you’re defenseless. And that’s the thing that concerns me the most – that Holm beat on Rousey past the point where Ronda could defend herself… and now the UFC folks are pressing for an immediate rematch. I hope Ronda tells them to go f*ck themselves. She needs to rest up and give her brain and brainstem a much-needed healing. She’s got enough money that she can afford some pretty advanced treatments, so she should take advantage of that.

And rest.

Anyway, for now, that’s a loss. I hope Rousey and her team are smart about what comes next. She absorbed enough head trauma in that fight to last her for a good, long time. Maybe for all time. She has a lot of light in her, and she has helped a lot of people by her example. It would be a shame to see that light go out, because she doesn’t know when to tap out for good.

I wish her all the best. At this point, I think her split lip is the least of her worries.

Going to get my taurine… and probiotics… and exercise

Gotta get some new stuff to work with
Gotta get some new stuff to work with

So, I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast with Dr. Rhonda Patrick, and it’s pretty amazing stuff. Google it or search on YouTube. I’m not going to give you the direct link, because you should find it yourself – and beautiful things can happen when you start searching.

You’ll probably find more info out there, than I can point you to, anyway. It’s all about initiative, focus, and follow-through. And if you’re like me, you’ll go off and start searching, find a bunch of stuff that is both more relevant and a total distraction… and then 30 minutes later, you’ll realize that you were really looking for that podcast, and you have to regroup and refocus.

Which is all good practice, anyway.

I’ve been listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast (Powerful JRE), and in between the talk about MMA and smoking pot (which I don’t, for personal reasons, as well as what I’ve seen long-term smoking do to friends), there are podcasts featuring really smart people who know a lot about how the human system gets damaged — and how to fix that damage.

Dr. Mark Gordon is one of those people. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is another one. And they’re all talking about head trauma, what it does to you, and how you can mitigate the effects.

And in the process of learning more, I’m finding other information. Like how the amino acid taurine helps you grow new brain cells. Apparently, it does a lot of helpful things – and if you don’t have enough of it, it’s not great for you. That’s bad, in fact.

I’m also getting confirmation from scientists on the JRE podcast who really know how to explain things to the rest of us, that’s confirming what I’ve read and believe – in ways that really stoke my determination. Exercise has become even more important to me, thanks to their on-camera talks, and more specifically, interval training is taking center stage. I’ve been more active in the past six weeks than I have been in quite some time, thanks to the fitness centers and the pool at work, and I’d backed off on my morning workouts. But now I’m back to them, especially on weekends, pushing myself harder than I have in quite some time. Just really making myself work does wonders for my mood and alertness, over the course of each day.

I’m a little out of it this morning (workout notwithstanding). I had a long and busy week, and then I was up late last night, getting some must-do items out of the way. I also woke up early, and I’m groggy and foggy. I’m not a big fan of feeling this way, but by this afternoon, I will be on a beach, probably lying down under the umbrella, just chillin’. I’ve got a week ahead of me to balance out a little bit of work with some major chill-time, so that’s something to look forward to.

The main thing is, I stay aware of my surroundings, I take care of myself, I don’t rush, and I just be deliberate about every.little.thing.

I can’t afford to have an accident or get hurt, and I’m sufficiently depleted and spacey, that it’s a definite risk. I also can’t afford to not do the things I need to do. I’ve got errands to run and bags to pack and vehicles to clean out, before I go, so…

The main thing with me, these days, is to keep safe and get healthy and strong. There’s a tradeoff, of course, because it’s tough to get really healthy and really strong without some element of risk … or stressing your system. If you’re pushing the envelope regularly, you’re going to develop in certain ways, and those ways will probably also be accompanied by stress. It’s tough to push yourself past your limits without stress — and a bit of damage.

So, the task at hand is to not back off and avoid stress and risk and situations that test me, but to figure out how to recover better, build myself back, and develop strengths rather than weaknesses.

Some people come up against challenges, and when they fall short (or feel like they do), they interpret it as meaning they’re deficient. And as they face one challenge after another, they keep confirming their suspicions that they’re not up to the task – or any task at all. And they block themselves in, building a wall around themselves that keeps the world out and also keeps them out of the world. Eventually, it keeps them from doing anything and everything that matters to them and gives their lives meaning. They’ve done it to themselves, but they think the rest of the world is to blame.

When I fall short, I take it as a challenge and important information about where I need to improve, in order to reach my goals. If anything, I want those experiences to tear down the walls and give me more access to strengths and abilities I never knew I had before. Sometimes you have to really take a hit, before you can access hidden talents and gifts.

But you don’t want all the hits to tear the crap out of you, so…

You’ve got to build back up. Recover. Be smart about things – which can be difficult, if you’ve gotten hit in the head a bunch of times. I’m lucky, in that I know that I have executive function difficulties, so I can make some really bad decisions, especially under stressful situations or when I am tired. It gives me pause. A reality check.

Speaking of reality check, I’m getting my raw DNA data sequenced online. I uploaded my raw DNA data from to the website, paid $5, and now I’m waiting for the results. It takes about 20 minutes to do it, so I’ll go get my shower and get ready for the day, then check back in.

Fascinating stuff. Largely recreational… and who knows what I’ll find. Hopefully, I’ll get some more data that will show me where I’ve got vulnerabilities, so I can do something about them. Finding out if I’m generically predisposed to Alzheimer’s will change things for me, I’m sure. After all the TBIs I’ve had, I need to know if this could be a problem. It’s always in the back of my mind, but why not find out what the data says.

Anyway, time to get moving. This day won’t move itself.


Amazing podcast – Dr. Rhonda Patrick on the Joe Rogan Experience

This is my latest vice – podcasts with Dr. Rhonda Patrick on the JRE. Check it out. A wealth of knowledge about TBI, head trauma, Alheimer’s, MMA, and more. Watch (or listen) and learn. Crazy good.

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